Cmdr. Michael Runkle, the CO of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, was removed 'for a loss of confidence in his ability to command.' Pictured: Runkle delivers remarks during a March 14 memorial service at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story for Navy Diver 1st Class James Reyher (DSW) and Navy Diver 2nd Class Ryan Harris (DSW). (MC2 Steven C. Hoskins/Navy)
- Filed Under
The Navy fired the commanding officer of the Virginia Beach, Va.-based dive unit that suffered two diving deaths in late February after an investigation found problems with compliance and command climate, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 said in an news release Wednesday.
Cmdr. Michael Runkle, the CO of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, was removed by Capt. Timothy Rudderow “for a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the release said.
“As a result of a diving accident in February in which two sailors drowned, EODGRU 2 convened a command investigation,” the release said. “That investigation brought to light continued command climate weaknesses. Additionally, the investigation revealed safety concerns that were not previously known. The safety issues identified in the EODGRU 2 command investigation were contributing factors in the decision to relieve Runkle.”
A senior chief and chief warrant officer 3 at MDSU 2 are now facing the possibility of dereliction of duty and involuntary manslaughter charges related for the Feb. 26 deaths during an exercise at an underwater testing pool in Aberdeen, Md. That accident killed Navy Diver 1st Class (DSW) James Reyher, 28, and Navy Diver 2nd Class (DSW) Ryan Harris, 23. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command has declined to release the names of the two MDSU personnel facing charges.
Runkle is the ninth CO fired this year.
“I am saddened by the loss of Ryan and James from the diving accidents in February,” Runkle said after being reached at his Chesapeake, Va. Home. “I know MDSU 2 will persevere and the command will carry on in their memories. However, now is not the time to comment on the specifics of my relief or the investigation. I will respond at the appropriate time.”
Lt. Nathan Potter, a spokesman for EODGRU 2, declined to comment on the nature of the morale issues or safety concerns, saying they were not releasable until the Article 32 hearing, set for May 21.
“The command investigation is complete but because of the pending Article 32 ... we can’t release it,” he said.
Runkle has been reassigned to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. His temporary relief is Capt. Dan Shultz, a former CO of MDSU 2.
Runkle, 40, is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and took command of MDSU 2 last September, according to his LinkedIn profile.